Hoatzin from Peru

By Fred Koehler
This item appears on page 45 of the August 2019 issue.

 Hoatzin from Peru

My wife and I took a cruise along the upper Amazon in Peru with International Expeditions (Helena, AL; 800/228-8162, ietravel.com) in September 2000 and again in September 2010. This is a great outdoor travel company, and this is a great trip for beginner adventurers.

I took this picture of a hoatzin on the 2010 trip. The hoatzin is the only bird known to possess a foregut fermentation system, which allows it to process huge quantities of foliage, as leaves are low in nutrients.

The bird “chews” leaves before swallowing, and the esophagus and enlarged crop serve as fermentation chambers, within which anaerobic bacteria secrete enzymes that break down the indigestible cellulose present in plant tissue. Digested food takes up to 45 hours to pass through its system. This is why these birds “hang around” for up to 80 percent of the time.

FRED KOEHLER
Orange, CA